25/11/2011 05:49 GMT | Updated 24/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Why is Cambridge a Phenomenon?

The Cambridge Phenomenon is 50 years old and a gripping story which constantly fascinates.

To mark this incredible milestone, which saw the creation of home computers, pocket calculators, bluetooth - as well as the technology behind round teabags - its history is being told in a new book, The Cambridge Phenomenon: 50 Years of Innovation and Enterprise, with a foreword written by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

What makes this story so phenomenal is the sheer genius behind some of the city's multi-billion pound companies which were created by a few geeky engineers working out of garages, back rooms and garden sheds, and have gone on to create vital products that are used by us all every day.

In 1980, Financial Times journalist Peta Levi first used the word "phenomenon" to describe the incredible cluster of technology and service companies that had occurred in Cambridge since 1960. There are now more than 1,400 technology and biotechnology companies around the city employing more than 40,000 people, accounting for almost a quarter of jobs in the area.

How did it start? The Cambridge Phenomenon began 50 years ago when two Cambridge graduates, Tim Eiloart and David Southward, "put the brains of Cambridge University at the disposal of the problems of British industry" by forming Cambridge Consultants.

It's no wonder that Bill Gates was later attracted to the city, with the founding of Microsoft Research Cambridge in 1997 to the creation of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and a generous donation to the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory which will continue to provide the brains behind our innovative new companies.

The ethos behind Cambridge Consultants is as vital today as it was 50 years ago. Charles Cotton, founder of Cambridge Phenomenon Ltd, believes a new era of collaboration between academia and the private sector will continue to influence our future growth and prosperity.

"The human race faces a number of global challenges - climate change, education, energy, food, health, security and water. None of these can be solved by any one science, or for that matter science alone. Solutions will need to be cross-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary, embracing science, technology, engineering, economics, politics, industry and commerce.

"And as far as Cambridge is concerned, this means combining leading science and technology from within the university with the experience of local entrepreneurs and those attracted from around the world to be part of the Cambridge Phenomenon. This provides the opportunity for expansion of existing companies and the founding of new enterprises to address these global needs."

I imagine author Kate Kirk enjoyed every moment of researching the extraordinary people and innovative companies that have enriched our economy over the last half century . The book can be pre-ordered at a discounted price and a preview is available. It will be published next spring.

Bill Gates says: "It's an honour to be invited to participate in this book celebrating the remarkable history of innovation and enterprise around Cambridge. These are accomplishments worthy of celebrating at a time when innovations in areas like technology, health and energy are so vital to the entire planet."

Final word to Hermann Hauser, who has played a major role in the success of the Cambridge Phenomenon:

"I meet people all over the world who want to know the secret to Cambridge's success. The answers are in this book."